Canada Housing Starts Deteriorate as Alberta Hits 5-Year Low

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Canadian housing starts fell for the third time in four months in January with work in the crude oil hub of Alberta tumbling to the lowest in almost five years.

The pace of work starting on new homes nationwide fell 4.1 percent from December to 165,861 at a seasonally adjusted annual pace, Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. said Friday.

Alberta’s unadjusted starts fell to 1,466 in January, the lowest since March 2011 and a 50 percent decline from a year earlier. The decline coincides with a jump in the western province’s unemployment rate, CMHC chief economist Bob Dugan said in the report.

The commodity collapse is increasing a drag on the national housing market, weakness that was masked over much of last year by surging demand in Toronto and Vancouver. There was evidence Friday of fresh job-market weakness that could temper housing further -- Statistics Canada reported that Alberta’s unemployment rate rose to the highest since 1996 at 7.4 percent in January.

Ottawa-based CMHC, originally due to release the starts data on Feb. 8, published the full report early after some of the figures were accidentally posted on its website, spokesman Charles Sauriol said.

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